What Can You Eat With Braces?
Simply by the way they work and how they fit around your teeth, braces can make eating more challenging. With all those brackets, archwires, and elastic bands, how do you know what foods you should avoid? Are there any foods that are better to eat with braces than others? And how do you keep your teeth clean when it is so easy for food to get caught in your braces?
At Ironwood Dental in Scottsdale, Arizona, our experienced orthodontic dentists have many years of experience helping adolescents and teens to cope with braces, including guiding our patients and their parents on choosing which foods to eat with braces and which ones to stay away from.
If you have questions about braces and food, or need to set up an initial braces consultation, call us at (800) 422-4544.
Five Reasons to Watch What You Eat With Braces
Even if your parents and their insurance are paying for your braces, you are still “investing” in them, too. What you are investing in is straight teeth, your future smile, and your long-term oral health. You pay into your investment by making some temporary changes to what you eat and the way you eat while you are wearing braces.
Here, in order of importance, are the top five reasons why you should pay attention to what you eat when wearing braces.
Avoiding Damage to Your Braces
Your braces are strong. Depending on your choice of materials, the brackets and bands can be made of metal or ceramic materials, firmly held in place by dental cement, wires, and elastic bands. Give them two or three years, and your braces are strong enough to reposition and realign your teeth.
But your braces are not invulnerable. All of the brackets, bands, and wires must work together to be effective. If any single part becomes “the weakest link” and breaks, then your braces as a whole will become ineffective until it is fixed.
In a worst-case situation, you could even accidentally inhale a broken bracket that becomes loose, which can quickly become a choking hazard.
You can break wires, brackets, or bands, separating them from the teeth, if you apply too much pressure to them. When this happens, a food item is often the culprit. There are three basic ways this can happen.
First, do not underestimate the power of your own bite and the force it can apply. When you eat foods, your jaws can apply considerable force, especially when your teeth are crushing hard candy or slicing into a whole apple. In some cases your bite force can be stronger than the weakest link in your braces, and when that happens, you can break an archwire or dislodge a bracket.
Second, certain foods, like hard chips, can effectively become “cudgels” when pieces of them wedge among your braces, brackets, and wires. In combination with the force of your chewing, a wedged chip can create enough leverage on your braces to cause a bracket or wire to fail.
Third, sticky foods like caramel, gummies, licorice, or other sticky candy can cling to your braces and exert gradual pulling forces on them that can eventually cause a bracket or band to loosen from its tooth.
Damaged braces can be expensive to repair and can delay how your teeth adjust, meaning you have to wear braces longer. So, knowing the different foods to avoid because they can break or loosen your braces is always helpful. We will go into detail on “braces-unfriendly” foods further below.
Avoiding Teeth Staining
The main way you keep a beautiful smile with white teeth is by brushing and flossing regularly. Braces can keep you from doing that effectively for all your teeth surfaces. It follows, then, that avoiding or reducing your consumption of foods that tend to stain teeth decreases the risk of stains building up in places that are hard to reach with a toothbrush and floss because of braces.
Tooth staining is not as serious a potential problem with braces that tooth decay can be. But if stains become noticeable enoughm they can become a source of needless self-consciousness about your smile and the social awkwardness that can follow when making friends and acquaintances. We know that this is a major concern for our adolescent and teen-age patients.
A dental cleaning at our Scottsdale orthodontist office is part of our recommended yearly care for our patients with braces. This routine cleaning will remove any staining that might start happening while you are wearing braces.
Promoting Oral Hygiene
Tooth decay, like cavities and gum disease, is what happens when bacteria have enough time and food to create plaque on the surface of your teeth. The acid from plaque corrodes your tooth enamel, which can lead to cavities. And when plaque hardens into tartar, it can lead to gingivitis and eventually periodontal disease.
The importance of brushing and flossing is to deny those bacteria their food supply, in the form of leftover food particles caught in your teeth and sugar left behind by beverages like sugary drinks or fruit juices.
It is hard enough even without braces to brush and floss away all those tiny food particles trapped in hard-to-reach spaces between your teeth. With braces, these particles are even harder to remove completely.
Because seeing your orthodontist regularly is part of your dental treatment, during one of your braces adjustment appointments we will see any signs of impending tooth decay even if you do not right away and recommend preventive or action or treatment to keep it from getting worse.
You can reduce the risk of braces-related tooth decay by practicing good oral hygiene habits. The most important is to brush and floss your teeth twice daily, and—especially after eating sugary foods or drinking beverages high in sugar—to brush soon after eating.
Another thing you can do is to avoid what we might call adult thumb-sucking behaviors like chewing on pens or pencils, sucking or chewing on ice cubes, or nail-biting. These can not only be bad for your oral and general health by placing foreign objects in your mouth; they can also hinder the progress of your braces treatment.
Adopting Healthy Chewing Habits
One of the hardest lifestyle changes to get used to when wearing braces is to avoid your natural impulse to cut food by biting into it head-on with your front teeth. This can put heavy stress on the brackets on those teeth, which can contribute to loosening or breakage of brackets or the archwire. You will need to learn to chew differently.
Three things you can do to reduce the risk of front braces failure of this kind are to eat easy to chew foods, to cut or tear your food into smaller, bite-sized pieces before eating them, and if you must bite into something, to do so with an oblique approach, using your canines and bicuspids instead of your incisors to do the biting.
Reducing Braces Discomfort
The good news about modern braces is that they are seldom painful to place, wear, and remove. The not-so-fun part about braces is that, because their purpose is to realign and reposition your teeth to at least some extent, there will always be some minor discomfort that follows their initial placement and subsequent tightenings as your teeth gradually change position.
For one or two days after you get braces or have them adjusted, you can feel some discomfort, mainly minor soreness. During this brief interval, the best foods for comfort will be softer foods like soups, smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, scrambled eggs, vegetables, bananas, soft cheeses, pasta, and seafood. This will reduce the biting force you need to apply while eating and the related stress on your braces.
In addition to prioritizing certain foods, another habit you can develop, especially immediately after getting braces, is to chew your food more slowly and deliberately, focusing on chewing with your back teeth, until your tongue and cheeks can get used to the presence of the brackets on your teeth. This can reduce the chance of inner cheek and tongue irritation that can come from the rubbing of those surfaces against the brackets.
What Are Braces-Friendly Foods?
Thankfully, many of your favorite foods can still be enjoyed with braces. We will identify some of them below, but it may be easier to remember a couple of simple rules when looking for ideal foods that are compatible with your braces:
- Softer is better. The less bite force you apply to your braces, the less chance there is that you will experience breakage or loosening of your braces. Also, eating soft foods can make it easier to remove food debris from your braces by brushing and flossing.
- Smaller is better. When you are chewing, smaller bites are easier for your tongue and jaws to manage. This further reduces the chance of putting force on your braces that could lead to breaking or loosening of a bracket, band, or archwire.
The table below shows some excellent foods you can eat that are compatible with braces, with some notes about some specific food items.
List of Foods You Can Eat With Braces
Examples of Food Items
Pasta (including pizza)
Cereals, hot or cold
Breads (Chewy bread > crunchy)
Tender cuts of meat
Steak (cut into smaller bites)
Fried chicken (cut off the bone)
Ground beef, turkey, or chicken
Hot dogs, sausages
Soft cheeses, cheese dips
Cut up raw vegetables
Apples (cut into slices)
Pears (cut into slices)
What Can You Not Eat With Braces?
Like there are some simple and easy-to-remember rules for foods that you should avoid with braces:
- Avoid foods that are hard.
- Avoid foods that are sticky, or chewy.
- Avoid foods that require you to bite into them with your front teeth.
- Avoid foods that can stain your teeth.
With the above general rules in mind, the table below shows some common foods that you should either not eat, or eat with caution.
Foods to Avoid With Regular Braces
Hard crackers or chips
Chewy snacks, like Starbursts, Tootsie Rolls, or Gummies
Whole apples, pears, or other hard fruits
Hard shell tacos
Thin crust pizza
Corn on the cob
Chips are hard and crunchy, and the edge of a chip can get wedged against your braces. This can lead to a bracket breaking away from its tooth.
Chips also can cause archwire endings to flex, which in turn can bend the wire or lead to the archwire coming out of the last bracket.
Popcorn kernels easily become stuck in braces and can be hard to remove without removing part of the braces.
An unpopped kernel is hard enough that biting on it can easily break a bracket or wire.
Foods to Be Careful With When Wearing Clear Braces and Aligners
Clear or tooth-colored braces and clear plastic aligners like InvisAlign aligners are a popular alternative to traditional steel braces. InvisAlign aligners have the added advantage of being removable when you eat or drink: this eliminates the prospect of food particles getting stuck in your braces.
For clear braces, the same foods-to-avoid considerations apply as for regular braces, plus one more: you will want to stay away from foods that can stain the clear braces materials.
Similarly, even if you remove clear plastic aligners before eating or drinking, if you put them back in without brushing first then any remaining food or beverage residue can stain the aligners.
The following are commonly consumed foods and beverages that can, if not removed promptly, eventually cause tooth stains or stains to your clear orthodontics:
- Hot or iced coffee
- Hot or iced tea
- Curry or turmeric
- Spaghetti, pizza, and enchilada sauces
- Balsamic vinegar
- Soy sauce
Trust Ironwood Dental for Your Adolescent Children’s Dental Health
We offer orthodontic treatment services in Scottsdale through all stages of your child’s growth, all the way to adulthood, including checkups, dental fillings, braces and aligners, and oral surgery services. We can help you with practical advice on how to encourage good oral hygiene habits for your children, and answer any questions you have about their dental health, including orthodontic options and orthodontic device care.
To set up an appointment with one of our orthodontic dentists, call us in Scottsdale at (480) 422-4544. If you prefer to contact us online to ask a question or to schedule an appointment for braces treatment, you can reach us here.